Community Health Survey

Reflections on Black History Month ~ 2022

Reflections on Black History Month ~ 2022


It is the end of February, 2022, and the end of this year’s Black History Month. I hope that February has been an especially meaningful month for you this year because Black History not only provides much to celebrate on its own, but also encourages all of us to reconsider who and what we all are as Americans today. It pushes us to ask where and what we need to do to transform our society into something better – something that works for everyone.

In one sense, the richness and importance of Black History in America enable it to stand easily on its own as a fully valid independent body of knowledge and serious academic endeavor. However, separating it even in part from the full scope of American history takes something away – something we need. In reality, Black History is an integral part of the broader scope of American history, and there is no American history without it. That full history tells who and what we are and how we have gotten that way. In the final analysis, we are one and the same and Black History has much to teach us all!

Black History as we currently know it, includes the important names we always hear, but it is also a history written by thousands upon thousands of other individuals who are not always remembered or known, but without whose contributions none of us would be who and what we are today: Garrett Morgan, Major Taylor, Charles Drew, Jane Bolin, Gordon Parks, Ella Baker, Althea Gibson, Albert Murray….. There is no way to name them all. Black history is the story of every person of color and the lives they lived or had to live, the suffering and pain they had to endure, as well as their ultimate triumphs as the best of this curious creature – the human being. It is also the story of how people of color have made America a far better place than it would have been than without that past. For that, we can only thank you.

But, as we celebrate Black History, we need to remember that this History, as important as it is, is by definition about the past. It would serve us well to think about both the present and the future in relation to Black History because Black History is still being written every day. In fact, we should really be talking about the living and powerful Black Story. I like to think of this living and dynamic story as “PHPF”: the Power of Black History, the power of its Present, and the power of its Future Story – one yet to be written, but one with enormous potential. I believe that we need to more deeply/fully appreciate all of that – and do so because we desperately need to draw upon the Black Story as a resource and guide today.

Why do I say that? I think that it is fair to say that the America in which we live today is not the America we would like it to be, or it should, or must be – place of individual freedom, equal opportunity, and social justice. America has lost its way as a society in which we all care for each other. We are in a wilderness of selfishness and self-doubt. We are losing the potential for good of far too many of our fellow citizens – our neighbors. But the Black community, its History, and ongoing Story have not done so. They can save us all!

Black History and the ongoing Black Story (remember “PHPF )” can bring us out of our current wilderness into a promised American land that is characterized by what it should be – a place of true freedom, equal opportunity, and social justice for everyone. From a “health” point of view – total health or wellness, as the World Health Organization defined “health” in 1948, is a “complete state of physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of infirmity or disease.”

PHPF brings us back to the community of East New York. East New York, despite all the tribulation and suffering that it has been put through over many years, has not lost “love” – the very spirit that is embodied in a phrase worn on many jackets and hearts in this community – “I am my Brother’s and Sister’s keeper.” The Black Americans of East New York can be the guides who lead All Americans to the “promised land” that the United States of America can and must be.

How will this happen? On a grand scale, this means the mobilization of the entire East New York community – the Rising Up of the good people of this community – to change what exists now. Unleashing the “PHPF” power that is within the residents of the East New York community will begin a process of transformation of East New York that will lead it to become the guiding light that will take America to the far better place for which we all long.

Remember PHPF – the Power of Black History, yes; but also the power of the Black Present and the wonderful Future to which all of you will lead us. That is really something to celebrate!

Thank you for all that you will do to make a better America for ALL of us!!!

Barry H. Smith, MD, PhD

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